Did you know that the United States has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, that the U.S. inmate population has quadrupled since 1980 to two million people, that $46 billion a year is spent on U.S. prisons, that more than half of the incarcerations are for nonviolent offenses, and that blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans are over-represented throughout the U.S. prison system? That’s right — believe it or not, our nation has a higher incarceration rate than North Korea, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Burma, or Iran.
At the rate that U.S. officials are rounding up people in Iraq, however, it’s entirely possible that Iraq could overtake the United States and vault into first place, especially given that U.S. occupational officials are exercising unfettered and omnipotent power to incarcerate anyone they want — without charges, arrest warrants, indictments, convictions, or any judicial supervision whatsoever. And the number of inmates in Iraq is almost certain to grow, given that no one except family members, who are powerless to do anything about it, seems to care.
No wonder that $87 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to “rebuild Iraq” includes $400 million for two 4,000-bed prisons ($50,000 per bed)! I’ll bet they’ll be coming back for more money before too long though, given that they’re currently holding some 10,000 inmates in Iraq, with the number growing with each passing day.
In other words, one reason that the incarceration rate in Iraq is soaring is that the feds are doing in Iraq on a massive basis what they’re doing here in the United States on a limited basis (at least so far): they’re rounding people up in Iraq without charges and locking them up for as long as they want, perhaps even until the “war on terrorism” is finally “won” at some indefinite time in the future, just as they’ve done with Jose Padilla, Yaser Hamdi, and Ali S. Marri here at home.
Given that Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act without even reading it and given the virtual certainty that Congress will rubber-stamp whatever the president wants to do in his “war on terrorism,” it’s difficult to have any faith that Congress will protect our constitutional guarantees and our civil liberties from executive assault, including protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, guarantees of due process of law, grand jury indictments, right to counsel, habeas corpus, right to confront witnesses, jury trials, independent judges, and criminal appeals.
Thus, let’s just hope that the judicial branch of our government, and especially our U.S. Supreme Court, stops the feds from doing here at home what they’re doing over there in Iraq. After all, being Number One is not always a badge of honor.